A new Mozilla Foundation report shows that hate speech and disinformation is spreading rapidly on TikTok in the run-up to Kenya’s August general elections.
According to the report, videos that appear to be in blatant violation of TikTok standards have also been boosted by the algorithms that underpin the platform’s primary For You page .
TikTok has become a key route for election-related disinformation, including attempts to incite ethnic tensions, from examination of roughly 130 videos that have been viewed over 4 million times.
More than 1,000 Kenyans were killed in post-election violence in 2007, which was fueled in part by rampant hate speech directed at various ethnic groups. According to the report’s author, Odanga Madung, a Kenya-based researcher and Mozilla Fellow, some of the TikTok content examined by the Mozilla Foundation includes references to that violence and attempts to capitalize on lingering fears and prejudice toward ethnic groups, with explicit threats against the same communities targeted in 2007.
In reaction to the report, TikTok has since removed videos highlighted by the Mozilla Foundation as violating the social media company’s community guidelines.
Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter were all closely examined for disseminating disinformation during Kenya’s 2017 general elections, which also ended in bloodshed, with at least 33 people killed by police officers.
TikTok has risen to prominence in Kenya since then, establishing a new channel for influencing Kenyan politics. TikTok is utilized by more than 60% of Kenyan users aged 16–64 according to Hootsuite’s Digital 2022 study.
TikTok officially prohibits political advertisements on its platform, but in Kenya, it has become a popular forum for political debate and vocal opinions on the current crop of presidential hopefuls.
TikTok presently has approximately 38 million views for the hashtags #siasa and #siasazakenya (the Swahili terms for #politics and #kenyanpolitics). TikTok’s community guidelines, unlike Facebook’s, do not specifically mention calculated references to historical atrocity as a potential content violation.
Part of the reason for the content being allowed to proliferate on TikTok, Madung found, is a weak content moderation practice focused on Kenya or Africa as a whole.
You can read the report here.